The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance

Henry Petroski, Author Knopf Publishing Group $25 (434p) ISBN 978-0-394-57422-6
In this age of the computer, Petroski's delightful, elegant history of the lowly pencil is a mind-sharpener, a revelation. The pencil's slow evolution from metallic-lead stylus paralleled the growth of engineering prior to the Industrial Revolution. In America, the saga of pencil-making encompassed gentlemanly cabinetmaker Ebenezer Wood and philosopher/amateur engineer Henry David Thoreau; the latter, while working in his father's pencil business, hit upon the idea of combining graphite and clay. In modern times, pencil-making was transformed from cottage industry to mechanized science, with a boost from international trade rivalries, the Faber manufacturing family of Germany and engineers' quests for perfection. Toulouse-Lautrec said, ``I am a pencil.'' John Steinbeck was seemingly obsessed with his pencils' points, shapes and sizes. Petroski ( To Engineer Is Human ) illuminates the intersection of engineering, history, economics and culture. Illustrated. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1990
Release date: 01/01/1990
Paperback - 434 pages - 978-0-571-21763-2
Paperback - 448 pages - 978-0-679-73415-4
Paperback - 978-0-679-76710-7
Open Ebook - 312 pages - 978-0-307-77243-5
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